The 12 Employment Law Questions of Christmas: Day 3

On the third day of Christmas, HR was asked “How do you deal with the morning after the Christmas party?”

And HR replied…carefully!

There will no doubt be a few sore heads following a work organised Christmas Party and it will be that bit more tempting for employees to switch off the early morning alarm and go back to sleep!

But what should employers do if an employee turns up late for work or doesn’t turn up at all?

If the employment contract allows for it, an employer could impose penalties for latecomers or AWOL employees such as deducting their pay. If there is no such provision in the contract, unauthorised absence could still be classed as misconduct and addressed under the employer’s disciplinary policy.

The difficulty arises when an employee calls in sick. The employer could investigate to determine if they are genuinely sick and, if the evidence suggests the employee is simply hungover rather than ill, the employer could treat this as misconduct rather than sickness absence and initiate a disciplinary process. However, it can be hard to establish whether absence is for genuine reasons and is a somewhat time-consuming process for HR teams to adopt.

Whilst sanctions are an option – and arguably justified if business operations are severely impacted by the employee being late or absent entirely - if the party was held to foster that Christmas spirit and boost morale, it would be a shame to lose this the next day.

The best approach is therefore to set out clear expectations and procedures regarding any absence or late arrivals following the Christmas party well in advance of the event itself to ensure everyone is on the same page and understands the consequences of not attending work on time.

To continue the goodwill and festive cheer, employers may even consider allowing employees to start an hour later than usual the day after the party or incentivise them to attend the office with a ready supply of Berocca and the offer of breakfast (remembering to cater for all dietary requirements!). Of course, in our new hybrid-working-world (and if your business allows) the option to work remotely may prove most popular. Alternatively, where business needs allow, employees could be encouraged to take a day’s holiday, although dealing with holiday requests at Christmas is a question for another day!


This information is for general information purposes only and does not constitute legal advice. It is recommended that specific professional advice is sought before acting on any of the information given. Please contact us for specific advice on your circumstances. © Shoosmiths LLP 2024.



Read the latest articles and commentary from Shoosmiths or you can explore our full insights library.